LEWISTON — Bill Grant is splitting his time between the Lewiston and Auburn adult education programs, allowing him to see the big picture and the cities to save $77,000 in director’s salary.

Since February, Grant has been participating in a one-year trial authorized by the Lewiston and Auburn school departments. It’s an offer he made after Lewiston Adult Education Director Eva Giles resigned in January to work for the Finance Authority of Maine.

“It’s the best thing for our students and community,” Grant said. “It’s a cost-neutral proposal.” His goal was to reduce administrative costs and put some money back into direct student services.

So far it’s working, superintendents say.

“It’s premature to answer the question long term, ‘Should we have one director’” Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said. “But from where I sit, things have been going well.”

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said both programs are headed in positive directions, “but we haven’t seen a full year.”

Before February, Grant was director of Auburn Adult Education with a salary of $76,000. He came to Auburn in 2013 as the assistant director of Lewiston Adult Education, so he is familiar with both programs.

He’s now director of Lewiston’s program with an annual salary of $93,000. Auburn contracts his services and pays 35 percent of his salary.

It means a $32,000 in savings for Lewiston, and $45,000 for Auburn, Grant said.

Auburn used the savings to give adult ed teachers a $1 an hour raise and to provide adult ed teachers with a part-time coach. That coach is Edward Little High School history teacher Darren Leighton.

Those changes directly benefit students, Grant said.

The programs cannot merge into one, Grant said, because if that happened each program would lose state and federal money.

Advantages of having one director for both cities are that “there’s more opportunity for synergy for the two districts,” Grondin said.

She described Grant is an excellent communicator and said both programs have strong staffs, which is making the change work.

Auburn’s Adult Education program has about 800 students; Lewiston’s has 3,000, including a sizable number of Somali-speaking adults learning English and other skills at the Lewiston Learning Center at Longley Elementary School.

Between one-half and two-thirds of students in Lewiston and Auburn programs are working toward their high school diplomas or are taking academic courses. The rest take enrichment classes such as cooking, dance and the arts.

Another advantage of one director for both programs is when working with other agencies, such as the CareerCenter or the local Workforce Investment Board, Grant can see from a community perspective the greatest need or can find space for a new class.

As far as the students’ perspective, most aren’t even aware there’s a change in leadership, Grant said.

Lewiston Adult Education program will graduate 70 on June 14 at Lewiston High School.

Auburn Adult Education will graduate 58 on June 10 at Edward Little High School.

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